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Gainesville pawnshops may have to track their goods, sellers
Ordinance would limit who can own and work at stores
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The Gainesville City Council is considering an ordinance that would require local pawnshops to keep an electronic database of merchandise and sellers.

The ordinance, presented at Thursday morning’s work session by Gainesville Police Chief Brian Kelly, would amend Title 6 of the city code, laying down rules on licensing of the businesses, permitting of their employees and establishing an electronic database to track transactions.

“Any time a transaction occurs, the pawnshop will be required to take certain information from the individuals pawning it — photographs, identification, fingerprints — (and) enter it into the database along with pictures of the items pawned,” Kelly said.

Police will then be able to search the database for stolen items and track who sold them. Investigators would also be able to tap into other databases outside of the city.

“The benefit to the police department, of course, is any time we’re dealing with stolen property we can search this database,” Kelly said.

The ordinance will also lay down rules on who can own, and even work in, a pawnshop, prohibiting those who have been convicted or pleaded guilty or no contest to felony theft, burglary, robbery or fraud.

The ordinance goes on to state the business license and employment permit must be renewed annually.

“The last thing we want to do is make it easier for the crooks to sell their merchandise,” said Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan. “If they spend as much time trying to get a job as they do stealing, they might be a lot better off.”

Under state law, pawnshops are required to keep a permanent record book, documenting each transaction by date, including the name, age, address, driver’s license or Social Security number of the seller along with a description of the item and its serial number if available.

A copy of those records is then given to law enforcement. However, it does not have to be kept electronically.

Some pawnshop owners feel that is sufficient and any more regulations could put a financial burden on the store.

“I don’t think it’s necessary because I would say about 99.9 percent of us are doing what we’re supposed to do anyway,” said Don Scott, owner of Pawn International in Gainesville. “What they’re doing, it’s the scrap metals people. There are bad people out there that do the wrong thing and it’s the pawnbrokers that are going to have to pay for it. That’s how I feel about it.”

Scott said his business has been open in Gainesville for a decade and over that time, law enforcement has confiscated $5,000 worth of stolen items.

“I’ve been in the business for 25 years and I can smell a rat when I see one,” said Scott.

But others in the industry see the move as a positive for both law enforcement and the community.

“I really don’t want to speak on behalf of the company at this point, but I think we always want to cooperate with law enforcement and we never want to do bad business,” said Doug Herrin, district manager for TMX Finance, the parent company of TitleMax. “I think that whatever is going to help, that will be good for us and good for the community as well.”

Pawnshops, depending on which database the city goes with, would be charged a transaction fee to upload the information into the database.

But Scott said lawmakers should focus on making automatic restitution mandatory in cases of pawned stolen items and not adding more regulations for the shops.

“They need to look at something like that instead of more expenses for us,” Scott said. “The bottom line here is, the pawnshops are doing what they’re supposed to be doing, I would say — 99 percent of us.”

Kelly said shops are likely to incur a fee of 20 cents per transaction, which shops could require patrons to cover.
The database host would provide the camera and fingerprinting equipment to the shops.

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